The team at Kōkako were long time followers of Feldon Shelter before we finally invited Beth and Joel over for a coffee (it was a decaf for Joel) to ask if we could giveaway one of their tents last summer. It was such a pleasure to get to know this young, driven, lively couple who’s passion for innovation and adventure is infectious. Unfortunately this summer we aren’t giving away another Crow’s Nest tent, but as there is still plenty of adventure to be had we asked Beth and Joel to tell us a little bit more about what makes Feldon Shelter tick.
On a typical day what goes on at the Feldon Shelter headquarters?
(Joel) We don't often get a 'typical' day around here it seems, but if we had to narrow down a day in the workshop; it would consist of tent assembly, a tent install or two on a excited adventurers vehicle and some photo processing/planning the next adventure.
Is there a story behind the name?
(Beth) Yep, you can thank the olds for that one. When my parents originally moved to Kumeu, they brought 10 acres of land and decided to make use of the space by growing flowers. They named their company 'Feldon Growers'. It was around the dinner table one evening that Mum and Dad shared stories of Feldon Growers. We thought it was very fitting, spoke quality and had family history. Funnily enough, it also means open green spaces. It was a winner!
What inspired you to start designing and producing rooftop tents?
(Joel) I do a lot of racing, and on a trip to Australia some of the crew there were staying on the top of their trucks in tents. Ever since laying our eyes on that first rooftop tent we were obsessed with the concept. Upon returning home we quickly noticed that there wasn't anything available here that fitted quite what we were after. So that sparked the idea to start researching and develop our own. Two years of designing, testing and developing later and Feldon Shelter was born, with our first rooftop tent being the Crow's Nest.
(Beth) It was also pretty appealing from a lifestyle point of view! A company that enables us to see more of our beautiful country, surf more, explore more, and do it all in the easiest way possible. With no pegs, no blowing up of mattresses and no putting up poles, roof tents made huge sense to us.
What’s the biggest challenge running the business?
(Beth) Not being able to get out exploring as often! During the early days testing & developing Crow's Nest tent (which was well over a year), we were out almost every week! Our time nowadays is spent inside the workshop working hard creating the Crow's Nest tents and developing new stuff for others to enjoy. Things could be much worse though, so we definitely aren't complaining.
And fondest roof top tenting memory?
(Joel) Mine would have to be waking up around the point in Ahipara. It's a spot we've been staying at ever since we were kids. But back then our parents didn't have a truck capable of the trek around the rocks, so it was the local motorcamp for us, and a sprint around the rocks to surf in the morning. So the first time we took the truck for a trip up north we made out way around the point. You can imagine feeling you're greeted with as you unzip the windows at sunrise. Beth spent the day up in the tent reading and I wore myself out surfing the long lefts.
(Beth) All the time the boys are in the water, I have enough uninterrupted time to enjoy my morning coffee and get stuck into a book. It works well.
Favourite/secret spot in your Kumeu neighbourhood?
(Joel) It's not so much Kumeu, but it is local. There's a section of the Hillary trail that a friend took us out to on the Muriwai cliffs. It's a 15 minute walk down some hefty staircases (aptly nick named the 'Devil's Staircase') which lead you right to the top of the cliffs just to the south of Maori Bay. Sunsets go off there.
Where to on the next adventure?
(Beth) We are heading straight to the bottom of the country as soon as this rain stops. There's a little place located on the southwest coast that is only accessible via a helicopter trip over the mountains, or a solid hike. We want to spend some time down there & hopefully time it with some nice summer weather.
What came first, the Landy or the tents?
(Joel) The tents. Well, we started designing and developing the Crow's Nest tents before the Landy came along. But then to start testing we had to find the truck that would take us deep into the country (which in hindsight probably shouldn't have been a 30 year old Land Rover). So you could argue that it was a tie.
Can you describe for us the best customer you've had so far?
(Joel) I seriously couldn't. It sounds lame, but each and every customer we install tents for end up swapping their stories and future plans with us. We are pretty lucky to be constantly surrounded by customers amping to get out there and explore. Their excitement levels wash off on us and keep us going.
What do you think rooftop tenting has up on regular camping?
(Joel) It's just the simplicity. I'll be brutally honest and tell you that I can't stand setting up regular tents, as we were always surfing and moving around from spot to spot. Rooftop stuff is so simple and easy in so many ways. I could go on forever, so how about I just make a list:
- No poles to setup.
- Unfolded and inside the tent in under 2 minutes.
- Sleeping bag and pillows always up top, dry and ready to go. So the cabin space in the truck is never over crowded.
- Can sleep on any kind of ground, from sand to boulders.
- Being able to fold up and move to the next spot so easily.
Describe your favourite piece of clothing/art/technology.
(Beth) Camping wise it's easy! Aeropress hands down. I'm the definition of a zombie in the morning before a cup.
(Joel) For clothing it would be my Earnest Tasker Pants (below). Developed to be the strongest work pants out there, they work pretty damn well for adventuring around too.
If you could drop everything this minute and teleport some place else, where would you be heading?
(Joel) Japan. I've spent a year and a half there in the past, and always wanted to return and trip around camping. It's not a country most would think of camping through, but I think it would be amazing.
(Beth) Well we've just done Sri Lanka, and it completely changed my outlook on things. So I think I'd head back for some more of that.
And lastly, how do you have your coffee?
(Joel) Decaf or hot chocolate please. I'm no good with caffeine. Actually I'm no good with milk either, so make that a soy.
(Beth) I'll pass on milk too, so a strong long black for me.